moananuiākea: historic voyage for earth: coming to port hardy

An astounding event is taking place, and it seems to be happening under the mainstream radar. If I didn't live in a Pacific coastal community, and if I weren't actively following local Indigenous news, I doubt I would be aware of it either.

Indigenous people from Hawai‘i are traveling around the Pacific Ocean by canoe. 

If this seems impossible -- it certainly did to me -- your mental image of the word canoe may need an update. This is a deep-sea voyaging canoe.


Members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) are traveling in a deep-sea voyaging canoe called Hōkūleʻa, built in the tradition of ancient Hawaiian double-hulled voyaging ships. Hōkūleʻa, built in Hawai'i and launched in 1975, has already sailed 140,000 miles around the Pacific during its lifetime.

Now, this 62-foot long, 20-foot wide sailing ship, along with a sister ship named Hikianalia, is on a 47-month journey, circumnavigating the ocean. In this 43,000-mile odyssey called Moananuiākea, the PVS will visit 36 countries and archipelagoes -- 345 ports in almost 100 Indigenous territories. 

Voyaging Tradition: Perpetuating our voyaging heritage to ensure it is never lost again.

Global Navigators: Activating millions of “planetary navigators” who will pursue critical and inspiring “voyages” to ensure a better future for the earth.

Wa‘a Honua: Bringing millions of learners of all ages with us through our third canoe, to create change and move us toward a healthier ocean and planet.

Our Ocean, Our Home: Exploring and sharing the magnificence of the world’s largest ocean, which breathes life into all of earth’s systems, and amplifying the movement to care for it, because life on earth will not be healthy without a healthy ocean.
I became aware of Moananuiākea when the Hōkūleʻa landed in Haida Gwaii. Our library system has four branches in Haida Gwaii, and one of my co-workers grew up there. But only when I explored the Hōkūle'a website did I learn that Port Hardy is a stop on the journey!

I encourage you to explore the Hōkūle'a website. You can read about voyaging canoes, Polynesian wayfinding techniques, and so many other fascinating threads of this event. And of course, you can follow the journey. 

Hōkūleʻa first traveled by container ship to Washington State, then by barge to Juneau, Alaska. From Juneau, Moananuiākea was launched, sailing first to Yakutat, Alaska, then several ports along the southeastern Alaskan coast.

This is a rough schematic of the planned route. 

You can just make out Haida Gwaii (top circle) and Vancouver Island (bottom circle).

On a purely selfish note, I will be away for part of September, and I'm hoping hoping hoping that Moananuiākea will touch down in Port Hardy before I leave. There's no way to know exactly when the expedition will land in any port, as weather, crew health, activities at each stop, and other factors will all figure in. 

From what I can tell, they should be in Port Hardy in August or early September, but there's no way to really know. If at all possible, I will attend their touchdown and any public ceremonies that are announced, camera in hand.


happy birthday to me: aging and mortality edition

I have been alive on this planet for 62 years. Somehow, inexplicably, it was June 13, 2023, and I passed birthday number 62. I find this fact stunning. 

I feel incredibly fortunate to be living the life I am. I've worked hard, taken risks, made choices, and had big assists of luck and privilege. I look around and just feel so incredibly grateful. 

I'll admit it's not all great -- but only briefly

I'm not loving the physical changes that come with aging. My health issues began at age 12, and I've lived with more than one chronic condition throughout my adult life. Aging is adding yet more actions to the already-long list of things I must do to keep ticking. It is sometimes frustrating. I sometimes feel like, Oh nooo, not another thing?? This is too much! 

Then after a period of adjustment, I find my footing. Because really, what choice do I have, what choice do any of us have? We can either take care of the condition and maintain our health, or not take care of it, and it will get worse, and we'll suffer physically and mentally. Obsessing and complaining doesn't make it any better. In fact, I think obsessing makes it worse: it would take up more space in my thoughts and my life. So I take a deep breath and suck it up. 

Beyond the physical, being in my 60s just feels so different. My ideas about the future are so different than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. The view ahead now looks bluntly finite. Of course, it always was, but my awareness of that finiteness is in sharper focus. I think of this often now, much more than I ever did before.

Talking about this is generally taboo. It's usually dismissed -- especially by anyone older than me -- with a laugh and a wave: "You're too young to think about that!" But the fact is, I do think about it, and I'm sure many people do, whether they admit it or not. Talking about death doesn't hasten its arrival. (Sorry, superstitious people. Our words don't really affect the universe.) Death is a reality. Perhaps talking about it might help us prepare psychologically, at least on a background level.

Thinking about death seems natural to me. When we're children we wonder about being teenagers, and when we're teens we wonder about being adults. To me, recognizing where I am -- or where I hope I am -- in the arc of my life is not morbid or premature. It just is. 

One and done

In my worldview, this life is the only life we will ever have. I don't believe in any form of immortality, don't believe there are magic words I can say or rituals I can perform to achieve life after life. Aging has given me a greater understanding of why humans invented the beautiful fiction of everlasting life, but I can't generate even a flicker of belief in it. In my view, when we die, our physical bodies go the way of all animal bodies, and indeed of all living things. As Jerry Seinfeld said about the soup, This is the meal, buddy boy. So stock up.

Now, in my 60s, I feel myself coming to terms with the finiteness of my own life. I won't travel to all the places I'd like to see, I won't read all the books I'd like to read. (Not even close!) The future versus present equation -- trying to ensure a somewhat comfortable old age while still living a full life today -- looks very different than it did 20 or even 10 years ago.

I'm not saying this with anxiety or depression or fear. Just stating facts as I see them.

When we're being honest about death, the thing many of us fear most is not that we will die, but how we'll die. There are all kinds of deaths, and some sure as hell appear better than others. I'm so very grateful for activists who have fought for end-of-life autonomy and dignity, such as legal medical assistance in dying. I follow that story in Canada and hope the laws become more expansive. (An excellent documentary on this: How to Die in Oregon.) 

I feel as strongly about end-of-life choices as I do about reproductive choices. Bodily integrity is paramount. And we don't have that in our world, not even close.

So here I am, 62 years old, and contemplating the road ahead. I know all the applicable cliches, as do you. Savor every moment, be grateful for what we have, blah blah blah. I do and I am, more than most people you will ever meet. These are the platitudes I subscribe to. Keep on keepin' on.